Boring is OK when it comes to cheap-but-powerful Ultrabooks.
The Acer Aspire S 13 has a "diamond-etched" bezel around the trackpad. That's what a company representative kept saying when helping me differentiate the $699 notebook from its myriad competitors. But while she was talking, I kept thinking back to my first laptop some 13 years ago, a beastly Dell thing that weighed nearly eight pounds and, despite its sub-1Ghz clock speed, could have doubled as a snowblower for all the fan noise it generated.
When it goes on sale next month, the Aspire S 13 will be fourth generation of S-series notebooks for the company since 2012, when the Ultrabook revolution really took off. And in those intervening four years, the cadence of processor releases by Intel has slowed, as has the innovation in the traditional laptop space. Indeed, unless you're really paying attention, it's difficult to tell the difference between Haswell, Broadwell and Skylake.
The Aspire S 13 boasts a 13-inch 1080p panel — touch optional — along with a sixth-generation Intel Core processor, between 4GB and 8GB of RAM, and up to 512GB of SSD storage. Obviously, the $699 entry-level will feature the bottom end of those specs, but there is still a lot to like about the S 13 at that price point. And because even the cheapest option runs a Skylake processor, you're looking at between 10 and 13 hours of battery life, which would have been unheard of just a few years ago.
Acer may not have the brand cache of a Lenovo or Dell, but the company has done a fine job building competent and attractive products in recent years. While the Aspire S 13 isn't as immediately gratifying as the Surface-like, liquid-cooled Switch Alpha 12, it's also got considerably more mass appeal, which makes it more interesting — even if it is boring.